BOOK: The White Devil by Justin Evans (2011)

I’m way behind on movie and book reviews again — I left for a week’s vacation for the holidays (sans computer, go me!) and then, naturally, went down for the count with a nasty cold and subsequent sinus infection.  But I’m finally back in action, and since my “Best of 2011” lists are about to go up on the Boyfriend page, I want to whip through a few last-minute 2011 reviews here this weekend.  Getcha all caught up.

This book was the book I bought to read on my vacation, after reading several reviews of it that recommended it strongly, including one by Stephen King.  Stephen King!  Have I learned nothing in my 38 years of life?  I was so excited to pick up a new ghost story — total sucker for those — that the Master of Horror had said was not only spooky as hell, but literarily grand as well.  Oh, Stephen King.  You have absolutely abominable taste, sir.

This boring, overwritten, overwrought novel is set in a fancy-pants private school for teenaged boys in the UK, the Harrow School.  As the story opens, American 17 year-old Andrew Taylor has just bought his way into the school after having burned his way through several US institutions by selling drugs and getting expelled.  He’s ready to start over and knows a mention of the prestigious Harrow School on his college applications is the only way to save his future bacon.

It takes Andrew some time to adjust, but he finally begins making friends with the boys in his dorm, as well as his resident adviser of sorts, Professor Piers Fawkes.  But when one of Andrew’s new friends dies of a mysterious and sudden pulmonary illness, gasping out his last bloody breath in Andrew’s arms, Andrew soon finds himself accused of murder by his peers.  Trying to boost him back up a bit, Fawkes casts him as the lead in his new play about the poet Lord Byron, one of the school’s most famous alumni, saying Andrew looks uncannily just like him.  But as soon as Andrew begins to delve into the world of Byron and his history at Harrow, he finds himself being visited by a vicious spirit he soon comes to realize is also connected to the great poet.  And is the monster responsible for killing his friend to boot.

From there, a series of additional deaths, the discovery of a love affair that turned to murder, a ghostly sexual assault scene I really could’ve done without, and a whooooole lotta boring inanity.

Among the many problems I had with the extremely bloated mess of story lines in this book was the absolute lack of any creativity whatsoever.  The ghost is pale, gaunt, and breathes with a death rattle.  Yawn.  The two main characters, Andrew and the first female student at the school, Persephone, bond over their troubled pasts and fall into an equally troubled love.  Zzzzz.  And the ending — oh brother.  Ghosts real or not aside, the stuff about tuberculosis was wildly inaccurate, and the story of Byron’s homosexual love affair, based on a true story (sort of) is so twisted and nasty it almost felt cruel to me.  And the way they finally get rid of that pale, rattling ghost?  Golly, that was easy.  And convenient.  And dumb, dumb, dumb.

I ended up reading this entire novel primarily because it was the only book I had with me.  Big mistake.  Had I given myself an additional option, I would never have made it past page 50 in this stinker.  Badly imagined, boringly conceived, this book is an absolute waste of your time.  LEARN FROM ME!


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One Response to “BOOK: The White Devil by Justin Evans (2011)”

  1. RogerBW Says:

    Oh well. We learn by your example.

    I must admit that as an Englishman I start off from a position of extreme wariness when an American writes about something English…

    Have you read Kate Mosse’s The WInter Ghosts? I keep hearing good things about it, but not from reviewers I trust. 🙂

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